Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Live Cheaply in New York: Dining Out

This is part of a series of living cheaply in New York. See previous posts: Grocery shopping, Housing, Entertainment, Transportation

New York is definitely a city of foodies. Eating out is a big part of the culture, but it gets really expensive. Here are a few ways to keep costs down:

Go out for lunch instead of dinner
If I'm going to go out for a meal with friends, I try to make it for lunch instead of dinner. It's amazing the difference in price! Also, "dinner" here in New York is really late to me -- 8 p.m. or so. I have to eat around 6:30 or I turn into a huge grouch. My favorite lunch spots: Kodama (sushi/bento), La Paloma (burritos), Mangia (Italian/American)

Go out for appetizers, drinks, or dessert instead of a meal
Go to a place known for great appetizers or desserts instead of a full meal. Just watch out for the cost of alcohol! My favorite appetizer, drinks, or dessert spots: Johnny Utah's, Serendipity, Mama Mexico, Toast

Split portions with a friend
Portion sizes nowadays are too big anyway! If you go to a place known for generous helpings, split a meal between two of you and cut your costs in half. My favorite big-portion places: La Paloma, Pio Pio 

Cheaper options
Food trucks! There are some amazing food trucks in Manhattan, and there's always the Red Hook Ball Fields. Favorites: Trini-Paki Boys, Sarah's Halal
Also, local spots. If you head to places that aren't super well-trafficked by tourists, you'll find some good deals. Favorites: Panna II, JJ's, Bohemian Hall, Zen Palate, Mundo

Coupons and other money-saving options
Groupon,, New York Restaurant Week, and festivals like Taste of Times Square and San Gennaro all offer great opportunities to eat out while saving a lot of money. Another option: mystery shopping! Most of your assignments will be for chain restaurants, but hey--if you're just looking for food that you don't have to make or clean up, you can't beat getting paid to do it.

One way to never save money while dining out: skimping on the tip. If you don't have the money to pay your full bill plus a 15% minimum tip, you can't afford to eat out.

How do you save money eating out?


  1. Lunch for dinner is a great tip, so much cheaper!

    I've really been enjoying this series :-)

  2. Good, practical advice that really applies to any city anywhere!

  3. In addition to splitting the meal with a friend, you can split the meal with yourself. If it's a big portion, it can be lunch the next day... halving your cost for the meal.

  4. @me in millions: Very good point! I do that all the time, I can't believe I forgot to mention it!


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